Charlottesville Breaking News

FLAWS- Tripled rates, spun numbers, and Conservancy conflicts: Why the war on dredging slogs on

Just when you thought it was safe to save the reservoir, the war against dredging it has reached flood stage. Waterworks director Tom Frederick– perhaps rattled by a yank of his permit to build a new reservoir, and a growing desire, amid upcoming City Council elections, to muster political support– has been spinning the latest data.

What can't be spun is that rates have essentially tripled since 1999. And yet a small cadre of environmentalists– most enmeshed in government, each with links to the other, and one actually leading a Frederick-friendly news agency– persists in pushing reservoir replacement even though it would benefit a bottled-water company at the expense of local households, destroy 180 acres of mature hardwood forest, and require an electricity-dependent pipeline moving more water than all but two local rivers.

How did such a crucial community decision fall into the hands of special interests? The old saying "Follow the money" is apt, because if there's one thing the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has, it's money. Money for consultants. Money for activists. Money to spend designing things that don't get built.

What the Authority also has is debt, $54 million today. And it's embarking on a five-year, $173-million capital improvement plan that doesn't even account for the pipeline, the most expensive piece of the plan.

Money to burn

The controversy began about four years ago when...

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Wrong last name of artist

The last name of the artist whose work was the subject of the July 28 art review, "Disposable beauty: Wood thinks outside the bag," was misspelled in the print version of the story. The artist is K. Wood, not K. Woods.

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Hacked Neff: Scammer steals Supe candidate's accounts

Former IBM exec Cynthia Neff has used computers since the 1980s and understands the importance of secure passwords. That's why it was particularly galling to discover a hacker had taken over her Gmail account and was trying to fleece her contacts with the old "London mugging" scam.

Worse, the scammer locked her out of her email, Facebook, and even a secondary Yahoo account.

"It's horrible," said Neff July 20, still able to communicate with old-fashioned telephone. She's running for the Rivanna District seat on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and had based her campaign distribution list on her email contacts.

Neff's hundreds of contacts, including the Hook, received an email marked "urgent" that spun a fictitious tale of her being in London and her bag had been stolen along with passport and money. Could the recipient wire her some quick cash, which she'd repay when she got home, so she could get on the next available flight?

Although the scam is not new, Neff worried that some would fall for it. "Older people and relatives called to ask, 'Do you need money?'" she recounts. "A neighbor came by, worried about me, and said he'd called the British Embassy."

The nice thing, she says, was that she got 75 phone calls from people checking to see if she was okay. Not so nice: getting locked out of her accounts...

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No arrest: A month after alleged abduction, questions linger

A month after a 42-year-old woman reported being abducted from her southern Albemarle County home and driven 300 miles down the Blue Ridge Parkway to North Carolina by a slim, short, gun-toting, masked assailant wearing sunglasses, one law enforcement officer has questioned the validity of her story, and the FBI says the investigation is still active. The alleged victim, however, isn't talking.

"I have no comment," says Kelly Porterfield, whose husband, Bradley Porterfield, reported their burgundy Honda Odyssey minivan stolen on the morning of Thursday, June 23, only to have it turn up later that evening– along with his wife– near Blowing Rock, NC. Questions submitted to Bradley Porterfield through Facebook were not answered by presstime.

According to a report in the Watauga Democrat, Porterfield, a registered nurse who works at Charlottesville Health and Rehabilitation (where a state recertification survey was under way the day of the alleged abduction), was found by a passerby in the woods about a mile from the Boone Fork parking area where her minivan was discovered.

"That case is still active," says the FBI's Richmond-based spokesperson Dee Rybiski, who confirms that the FBI has not yet released a composite sketch of the...

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'Stink-bomb': Explosive allegations threaten $10-million award, career

The jury was so moved by 25-year-old Jessica Lester's 2007 death under the weight of an out-of-control Allied Concrete mixer that it awarded a record $10.6 million, the bulk of which to go to her grieving husband.

Now, seven months after the December trial, allegations that a respected personal injury lawyer lied, withheld evidence, and failed to disclose a family connection to the jury foreperson threaten to overturn the award– and a career.

Lawyers for Allied Concrete and its driver, William Sprouse, detail in a court filing how plaintiff's attorney Matt Murray allegedly instructed Jessica's husband, Isaiah Lester, to remove photos of himself partying, à la Casey Anthony, from Facebook and withhold them from a defense discovery request.

The defense also asserts that Murray ordered a paralegal to withhold the "stink-bomb" email that instructed Lester to get rid of the pictures, and when she refused to do so, Murray withheld it himself, then later called the omission an oversight by another paralegal.

One day after the July 5 defense arguments were filed, Murray resigned as managing partner for Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen, the largest personal injury firm in Virginia, which had recruited hi...

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